March 15, 2020 / 1:16 AM / 25 days ago

Central American countries up fight against coronavirus

An empty shopping mall is pictured after the Honduras' government banned public gatherings to avoid the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

SAN SALVADOR/TEGUCIGALPA/PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Central American countries took further and tougher steps to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus on Saturday with measures ranging from bans on large gatherings to travel restrictions.

El Salvador’s Congress approved a series of emergency measures sought by President Nayib Bukele to prevent the spread of the virus and to fend off the risk of a public health crisis.

The measures include restrictions on entry to and exit from El Salvador, as well as curbs on public gatherings. El Salvador has so far not reported any cases of coronavirus.

Earlier, Honduras and Guatemala banned public gatherings to prevent the virus from spreading as quickly as it has in Asian and European countries. Panama had already banned large gatherings.

Meanwhile, authorities in Panama said flights arriving from Europe and Asia would be temporarily suspended, with the exception of flights that transport doctors, medical equipment or other humanitarian aid.

So far, more than 150,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and over 5,500 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Honduras, Elida Moreno in Panama, Nelson Renteria in El Salvador and Sofia Menchu in Guatemala; Editing by Stefanie Eschenbacher, Alistair Bell, Daniel Wallis and Himani Sarkar

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